Archive for August, 2008

31 August 1995 – Barry Lee Fairchild

Posted in Death penalty, Lethal injection with tags , , , on August 31 by Last Writes

Barry Lee Fairchild

Barry Lee Fairchild

Controversy shrouds today’s main man – Barry Lee Fairchild, whose life sharply hit the skids in Arkansas today in 1995.

Indeed his execution was so controversial that the Arkansas board voting on whether to commute his sentence were to face ‘their closest vote on record’ – the penalty ended up being just one vote away from being overturned, according to Michael Kroll from the Death Penalty Information Center.

Fairchild, along with his brother, had been caught in a car of a recent victim. This victim was 22-year-old Marjorie ‘Greta’ Mason, who had been raped, robbed and shot twice in the head.

Chomping at his bits

A number of sources state categorically that a confession was coerced out of Fairchild. He is said to have been tortured into a confession – on his arrest a dog was unleashed, who promptly proceeded to tear chunks out of the beleaguered suspect.

Following a spell in hospital to recover from his wounds and once Fairchild was back in custody, the sheriff is said to have set upon him with the barrel of a shotgun, while Major Larry Dill placed a well-aimed boot in the poor bloke’s stomach.

Type cast

But on what evidence did they accuse him? Semen proved the suspect was blood type ‘O’, but Fairchild was an ‘A’ type. It appears that maybe Fairchild was an easy target – he was black, mentally retarded and unable to write.

He’d confessed to being part of the attack, but not to the actual killing. But that appeared to be enough to fit him up with the murder.

The 41-year old opted for the lethal injection over the electrifying alternative, yet the controversy failed to die with him.

Also on this day

31 August 1593 – Pierre Barrière

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31 August 1593 – Pierre Barrière

Posted in Breaking wheel, Death penalty, Dismemberment with tags , , , on August 31 by Last Writes

Pierre Barrière failed in his attempt to kill King Henry IV of France, but he lost his life nevertheless.

Despite having the love and respect of his people for his humour and kindness as well as his work towards a religiously tolerant society, Henry was subject to a few assassination attempts.

According to Eric Nelson in the ‘Jesuits and the Monarchy’, E Pasquier – a writer of the day reckoned that the Jesuit preachers were instrumental in provoking such assassination attempts. After all, it was a Jesuit who was to stitch our man up.

Peter out

Barrière was one such opportunist and he tried to kill the king on 27 August 1593, yet failed. A former solider from the Orleanais, he would have walked away had he not gone to confession.

The unsuspecting Barrière revealed all to a Dominican priest – Father Varade – in a bid to get absolution.

According to E Pasquier in the snappily entitled book ‘Bref discours du process criminal fait à Pierre Barrière, dit la Barre, natif d’Orléans’ Varade encouraged him to confess. So he ‘revealed his bad will and intention, which the Jesuit praised, telling him that it was a good thing, among other similar things, and exhorting him to be courageous, to be steadfast, and to confess, go to Easter mass and take communion’.

Broken down

Yeah right… Barrière never made it as far as Easter 1594. Instead he was promptly shopped for his indiscretion and arrested on 27 August 1593. It took just four days to convict and execute the would-be assassin.

As a so-called regicide, Barrière’s death was painstakingly slow and torturous. First he was slung on the breaking wheel where his limbs were pulverised, then his broken body was cut down and he was dismembered.

And if you were wondering what happened to Henry IV, well, eventually an assassin plotted to kill him and was successful. His name was Francois Ravaillac – see what torturous fate befell him…

Also on this day

31 August 1995 – Barry Lee Fairchild

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30 August 2000 – Gary Lee Roll

Posted in Death penalty, Lethal injection with tags , , , , on August 30 by Old Sparky

Gary Lee Roll

Gary Lee Roll

Misery hit Missouri after three men decided to target an innocent family. Masquerading as the police, Gary Lee Rolls and two cohorts blagged their way into the home of family of four – the Schepers.

There they carried out a ream of murderous crimes, beating, pistol-whipping and stabbing the family to death, while hell-bent on robbery.

Roll with it

Roll along with David Rhodes and John Browne then made their escape leaving the four corpses to be discovered at a later date.

Discovered they were and it was then that the terrible trio started turning on each other. Browne surreptitiously taped Roll ‘fessing up to the murders. The accomplice then handed the tape over to a mate who hot-footed it over to the police.

Cornered, the three men then pleaded guilty to a variety of crimes, but as the main perpetrator, Roll copped the lion-share of the blame. Rhodes got three life sentences, grass-stained Browne got life, but Roll got death, despite an exemplary military record and no previous.

None of that mattered – Missouri stuck a lethal needle in the 47-year-old today in 2000 for his murderous part in the proceedings.

Also on this day

30 August 1850 – John White Webster
30 August 1946 – Konstantin Vladimirovich Rodzaevsky

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30 August 1850 – John White Webster

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged with tags , , on August 30 by Last Writes

Humiliation befell Harvard in the shape of college lecturer John White Webster in mid-19th-century Boston.

The ivy-league chemistry professor bought shame on his faculty after he murdered a moneylender.

Webster was from a well-to-do family, who had made money in trade. But he had an expensive lifestyle to uphold as well as four debutante daughters who needed to be married off.

Lucky man

Luckily, he hadn’t squandered his time as a spoilt young boy growing up. He’d put his time and parents’ money to good use studying at Cambridge and winding up at Harvard as a lecturer, albeit an average one, according to the local Bostonian newspapers.

Nevertheless, in order to keep up appearances he wrote books and papers on his specialist subject – chemistry.

The challenge lay in trying to keep the books balanced on such meagre wages. Needless to say, he didn’t do too well on that front and often borrowed from his mates.

Parkman’s life

His need for money was eventually to throw him in the path of Parkman, however during his trial1, the prosecution deemed that it would ‘not be necessary to detail their business intercourse from an earlier period that the year 1842’.

It all started off modestly enough, but soon the debts were accumulating until Webster was forced to secure the loans on his personal property, including all his furniture.

Borrowed time

By that time he was mortgaged up to the hilt with Parkman, so Webster turned to Parkman’s unsuspecting brother-in-law for more funds. This time he got part of the money in return for the sale of a cabinet, containing minerals – but this same cabinet already formed part of the collateral underpinning other loans and Parkman found him out.

The two men were at loggerheads and it was Webster’s indebtedness that was to motivate him to dispose of his walking, talking cash machine. Of course Parkman’s disappearance drew immediate attention and as he had been seen on Harvard campus, so focus was drawn to the university. Also Webster had been seen skulking around at a time when the Uni was closed – after all it was half-term and Thanksgiving.

Unsurprisingly therefore, on 30 November 1849 a gruesome discovery was made in a holed-up area behind Webster’s Harvard lab. It was originally made by the highly suspicious janitor and the police turned up to investigate further and the deathly remains were unearthed – namely a pelvis, a right thigh and a left leg all turned up prompting closer examination of the area in the following days.

Dem bones

Likewise bones, teeth (more of which later) and evidence of burned body were unearthed, while other bits of body were found down the toilet and Parkman’s chest in a tea-chest. Of course key bits were missing – namely the head, which was found to have been burned until only bone fragments were left. Yet, apparently Parkman’s wife was able to identify what was left of her husband’s remains from distinguishing marks.

Webster was charged with murder – the indictment read that he ‘…then and there feloniously, wilfully and of his malice aforethought did strike, cut, stab and thrust’ a knife that inflicted the fatal wound in George Parkman. And his was a landmark case because it was the first that America allowed dental and scientific details as admissible evidence in a court of law.


Somehow, it seems fitting that science should ultimately convict the man of science, and Webster was indeed found guilty of the murder of Parkman and sentenced to die. Eventually Webster was to ‘confess’ that he’d killed Parkman, but he maintained that he’d used a stick to kill him, which went against forensic evidence. Naturally, any kind of lesser sentence was refused.

So, despite this last-ditch and very desperate attempt to wheedle his way out of the death penalty, Webster was publicly hanged in Leverett Square in Boston, aged about 57. According to ‘Wikipedia’, among other sources, Mrs Parkman was the first to donate money in a collection set up to fund the now destitute widow and daughters who’d been left behind by their murderous dad.

1 This information is based on the first-hand ‘Report of the Case of John W. Webster’ attributed to John Webster himself, but it was actually prosecutor George Bemis who wrote it. According to information accompanying the book, it was written during an appeal for a reduction in the sentence.

Also on this day

30 August 2000 – Gary Lee Roll
30 August 1946 – Konstantin Vladimirovich Rodzaevsky

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30 August 1946 – Konstantin Vladimirovich Rodzaevsky

Posted in Death penalty, Shot with tags , , , on August 30 by Old Sparky

Hot on the Russian heels of leftie Grigory Zinoviev comes extreme right-winger Konstantin Vladimirovich Rodzaevsky. And what do you know; Stalin was once again responsible for the fascist’s demise.

Right-winging it

Sick of the grip of egalitarian politics, Rodzaevsky tried to overthrow the Bolsheviks with his brand of anti-Semitic right-wing activity while in exile. But he needn’t have bothered – ultimately he was to hand himself in, in 1945 after he rightly began to suspect that Stalin was right-wing enough for the both of them.

‘I failed to see that, by the will of Fate, of his own genius, and of millions of toilers, Comrade J V Stalin…had become this unknown leader.’

Promises, promises

Well, you’ve seen Stalin’s government in action, so it must come as no surprise to find out that promises of a release and a job on a newspaper were empty indeed.

In actual fact Rodzaevsky was arrested, found guilty of crimes against the state and met his seedy end in a Lubyanka cellar with a bullet embedded in his brain. He met a similar fate to that of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, who met their untimely ends 28 years previously.

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29 August 1533 – Atahualpa

Posted in Death penalty, Garrotte with tags , , , on August 29 by Old Sparky


Curiosity killed the Inca today in 1533.

Once a former ruler of one of the most golden dynasties – the Incas – Atahualpa was executed after he served his useful purpose.

This was at a time when the Spanish were on the look-out to extend their territories. Christopher Columbus had been busy sailing the ocean blue 40-odd years back and they were now keen to extend their lands and gather booty as they went, headed up by Francisco Pizarro. So the Incas provided a real goldmine, literally.

The Spaniards were hell-bent on pillaging the lands and Atahualpa was inadvertently making it easy for them. They needed someone who could make pave the way for their takeover by minimising the resistance. Cue Atahualpa, who gave them an invitation, pretty much.

Don’t get us wrong, he was no pushover. He’d bumped off his milder-mannered half-brother (who was the legit heir) to get to where he was, just before the Spanish had appeared.

Andes realm

Naturally, the new leader was curious to know who they were, so he gave the Spaniards an invitation to enter the notoriously defensive Andean realm completely unopposed.

Having given up the supreme Incan advantage of inaccessibility, the tribe was now vulnerable and the Spanish wasted no time casing the joint and really liking what they saw.

But this was only a small deputation led by Pizarro’s brother, so the Spanish cunningly reciprocated by inviting the Inca ruler to meet their leader too. However, Pizarro had no intention of being friendly – his motives were far more sinister. They planned to jump Atahualpa as he unsuspectingly left his place of safety.

What good were the Incas’ axes and slingshots against Spanish guns – the relative weapons of mass destruction of the day? The Incas didn’t have a hope – many were killed, while others just legged it.

Rich pickings

Completely beaten into submission, Atahualpa soon cottoned on that they coveted gold and jewels, so he offered to provide them with a room full of riches.

This bought our man some time, but ultimately he became a burden and the Spanish sought ways to dispense with him. They used his religion and the fact that he’d killed his bruv to sentence him to death.

As for the date of his death, Atahualpa, Atabalipa or Atawallpa as he was also known is thought to have died on this day in 1533, aged roughly 31. Some sources, such as Wikipedia, go with 26 July 1533, however we’ve gone with the likes of and the encyclopaedias.

Burning issue

On one thing they all agreed, the sentence for heresy was burning.

The Inca leader was beside himself – if he was burned, his soul would never proceed to the Incas’ coveted afterlife. So he was forced to become a convert, thus earning himself the more palatable method of garrotting.

If you had the gruesome and unenviable choice, which method would you opt for? Vote in our macabre poll…

Also on this day

29 August 1800 – Thomas Wilmott
29-August 1801 – Edward Hughes
29 August 1803 – John Clarke

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29 August 1803 – John Clarke

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged with tags , , , on August 29 by Old Sparky

Another rapist was sent to the gallows on this day in 1803 a couple of years on from Edward Hughes.

John Clarke was hanged at Ashby Road in Leicestershire for sexually assaulting someone.

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